@Chad and I got into an argument/ discussion about the requirement of references in What law compels countries to take prisoners who are NOT trying to surrender?

He wanted a reference to an answer by @MistahMix which claimed there are no laws for a specific behavior, saying that answers needed references. My position was that if the answer was that no laws applied, the burden of proof was on the potential refuter of the answer. He suggested this question belonged on meta, so here it is:

When an answer is stating that no law applies, shouldn't the axiom of trying to prove a negative also apply? If that is the case, is this not a perfectly legitimate answer (assuming it is factual) without cited references?

2 Answers 2


I usually advocate the following standard on Science Fiction and Fantasy (surely, if it's not too onerous for that site, it can not be a burden here) for backing up answers that amount to "no", "no information", "don't know":

  • Explain how you searched canonical info. In the context of Politics.SE that means:

    • Did you search the text of laws (and how/which)?
    • Court cases?
    • Relevant Wiki articles?
    • Google searches you did as part of your research?
    • More scholarly sources you perused?

Basically, show that (1) You aren't just guessing out of your behind, and (2) Allow whoever reads the answer see what your reseach depth and methodology was to be able to judge if it was thorough enough for their willingness to agree.

(eg., may be you omitted some needed search terms, due to not knowing the technical terminology).


I'm personally not of the mind that references are an absolute necessity in the first place.

Sources can be handy if you're trying to use the answer as an authoritative source, but if you're just trying to understand the subject matter for yourself, they're really not that crucial.

  • As on Wikipedia, it depends if the claims being made are contentious, or seem to be being used to imply something contentious or dubious. But in politics, many things are contentious from someone's point of view! Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 13:10

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